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Time for Md. to Taiwan on

October 17, 1997

It's interesting and marginally useful to look across the Potomac River and watch the Eastern Panhandle become Taipei West, as more and more Asian manufacturing firms move in, bringing high-paying manufacturing jobs.

Two jet aircraft factories and one high-tech factory is too many for me.

So what are we to do, convert to ecumenical Taoism and go off to Katmandu to chew betel nuts and see how long we can grow our toenails?

I'm not complaining, though. I give them thanks; the more good jobs the better. But at some point you have to wonder, what do Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller and Cecil Underwood and Bob Wise know that Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski and Parris Glendening and Roscoe Bartlett don't?

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I thought former Maryland Fossil William Donald Schaefer set up some sort of Asian bureau several years ago for this very thing.

But everything's going to the Mountain State. Pretty soon they're going to start calling it the Far Eastern Panhandle.

Are their folks just more world-wise in the ways of business than we are? Or do they have a picture of Chang Tsolin with a chicken?

Look, I read that Disclosure book. I know you don't exactly get Asian contracts signed by rosining up the bow, dragging them by the armpits out to the dance floor and do-si-doing around a straw hat. So there goes Byrd's ace.

They deal in dignity.

In dignity, but not in Maryland. Maybe they're afraid of a little pfiesteria in the sushi.

But can't we do something? I mean in Martinsburg and Berkeley Springs they're building jet aircraft and performing cutting-edge, high-technology, while over here we're inventorying Post-It notes.

"Another pallet of paper clips for you, sir."

"Right on."

Oh, I remember. It always comes to me, the problem with Maryland is that we're not a right-to-work state.

Of course, neither is West Virginia.

No, wait, wait, wait - it's that over here we have to plant all those trees. That must be it. Probably the emissions test and the cloud seeders had something to do with it too. Maybe it's an ancient, Taiwanse insult to have your lights on with the wipers.

But don't these West Virginia idiots read the consultants' reports? You saw the one. High wages will be the death of the Interstate 81 corridor, according to that Quad State Feverishly Working For Your Right to Poverty group.

Don't they know? The best thing about the Winchester to Chambersburg geography is that corporations pay their workers in shavings from former Eastern Bloc Nation scrap iron heaps.

Somebody better get the word to our southern neighbors or they'll be the ruin of us all. How can we expect to keep landing these fine warehouse jobs if West Virginia aerospace keeps inflating the price of the proletariat?

And here's another thing about global trade that I won't understand if I live to be 40. (That joke worked so much better in the days when I could say "if I live to be 25"). We hear about all these American jobs going overseas to cheaper labor. So now overseas is coming to us? I don't get it. Is Doonesbury going to do a strip on Martinsburg workers?

Maybe there's a little more to building a jet engine then to building a sneaker, but not to hear Nike tell it. And I know some moms that would rather pay for a jet engine, given the choice.

Ah well, there's still one redeeming factor, as West Virginians are laughing all the way to the rudder: Berkeley County is still within commuting distance.

We've been searching for a new motto lately, so how's this - "West Virginia, It's Maryland's Best-Kept Secret."

Next time you see Sarbanes and Bartlett and company you may want to ask them how they like it.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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